Show Review (19/01/’13): A night of poetry, song, and profound cello
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Hi, everyone. From now on, whenever I am involved in a substantial show, or a show that moves me deeply, I am going to write a review of it. This will allow me to share the intimate perceptions of my life with those who may not be able to share and celebrate all of the blessings that come with living a creative, poetic life. My most recent performance was at a house concert, this is what I saw, received and felt:
It was, as one might expect in the middle of January, a night of severe cold. I stepped from the bus and began walking toward a house I had never visited before, in the heart of Ottawa’s “Little Italy”, for what I was confident would be a night of rousing artistic magic and warmth. I was the last of the three featured artists to arrive. I got to the house, began to push the door open, and through the glass, I could see the house’s owner, Dean, throw his hands in the air and then bring them into his chest as though praying; he was happy to see me, as he knew that my arrival signaled the night’s truest beginning. When the door swung open, the house revealed itself a nook of warmth and sensuality: the smell of incense rushed to my nostrils, the lamps threw yellow and orange light on the earth-toned walls, in decor and in energy the house seemed to hold much grace, much ease, much warmth and positivity. In the living room, where the show was to be held, were rows and rows of many-coloured pillows. This is where the audience would gather. In front of the pillows was the stage where my co-features and collaborators for the night, Amanda Cottreau (reverbnation.com/amandacottreau) and Raphael Weinroth-Browne were already setting up. The stage was quite small, probably less than two metres in length, but its coziness typified the feeling of the night; I was neither surprised or disappointed to find that the stage was tiny, and would provide almost no separation between us and the people for whom we would be sharing our art that night.
The show began a little after seven. The living room, formerly brimming only with pillows and lamp-light was now full of forty-five bodies awaiting a great show.
Amanda, who had been billed as the show’s true feature artist, got the evening underway. Amanda is a woman with a conscious, intuitive, and consistent will to connect people. Her music expresses a desire to love and be loved, and the nuances of what it means to have those desires in a complex world. Her music is lilting, introspective, comforting, precious, reflective, breakable and sometimes broken. It is the sort of music that asks to be listened to and compels its hearers to make themselves vulnerable. Her brand of folk, and the emotional intellect of her song-writing calls out to hold you, but she is, for the moments she is on stage, asking also to be held by the audience. As such, she was the perfect person to set the tone in an environment as intimate as the one Dean (and the audience) enabled that night. Her set rocked us gently, as it always does, and let us know that no matter what transpired that night, we were loved, safe, and held.
After Amanda’s set, it was my turn. I was comfortably familiar with about ten members of the audience that night. It is surely a blessing to be known by others, as, aside from the grace of God and magic of the Universe at large, the goodness of other human beings is what humbles me and thrills me most in life. Because of this, I was quite happy to perform in front of the members of the audience who I already knew and loved. It is helpful, especially in such an intimate setting, to be surrounded by people who love me and find beauty in me. As I told the audience before one of my poems, being in a room full of such people makes it easier for me to be myself. All I must do is focus upon giving myself as completely and sincerely as I can, and the audience will receive me graciously, because the love and understanding is already ample between us. For these reasons and others, I enjoyed my set a lot. I performed only three poems, while Raphael accompanied me for two of them (on piano). I felt nourished by the receptivity of the crowd, and I felt like I did a good job of being myself, in all of my strength, sensuousness, humour, intellect and frailty. I felt the set was a strong, precious, cogent thing, simple in its essence, but not naive. I felt empowered. It was another of the experiences in my life that shows me who I am and acquaints me with whatever impact I have in the world. Performance, whether “successful” or not, will always show you who you are, who you are becoming, how well and healthily you are growing toward your natural power, or alternately, toward doubt or disempowerment. I felt I did myself justice, and I felt that self validated by those around me. I was pleased
After my performance was intermission, and then the brilliance of Raphael Weinroth-Browne. Raph is a young musician by almost any standard, but he is surely not a young spirit. He is, as much as any musician I have seen in Ottawa, a humble force of nature. I think Raphael succeeds as a powerful musician because he trusts music. He seems to trust the capacity of music to express the parts of himself that may be difficult to express in any other way. He submits quite wholly to the power of sound, and what we receive as listeners is the formidable depth and complexity of his spirit, the sheer force of one who has chosen a path he believes in, and has given himself to it. Raph played solo cello pieces for a half hour. When he was finished, he received a standing ovation. There were no shouts for encore, there were no ecstatic pleas for more, once everyone had finished the ovation, there was only warmth, only silence, only Raphael’s raw, organic force, lingering in that tiny room. We could not ask for more, we could only sit in the truth of the energy that his music had created, and let him do whatever he wished to do with the silence he commanded from us. He thanked the audience and played two more songs before the show came to a close.
I enjoyed the show in all of my favourite ways. I enjoyed it for its intimacy, its social integration, the element of community that the evening was indicative of, and for the new connections and friends I was able to make. I am grateful to Amanda for her faith in me ( she is who booked me for the show) and to Raphael for the goodness his humility manifests into the world. It was a textured, pleasant evening, one worth giving thanks for.
Thank you, Ottawa. I look forward to the next show.